Harrogate Town 100 per cent certain that Rochdale AFC clash will be played in front of supporters
Harrogate Town insist that there is no danger of their 2021/22 curtain-raiser at home to Rochdale taking place in the absence of spectators.
Under advice from North Yorkshire County Council's Safety Advisory Group (SAG), the League Two Sulphurites reluctantly played Saturday's pre-season friendly against Sunderland behind closed doors, much to the disappointment of supporters from both clubs.
A bumper crowd had been expected at Wetherby Road for the visit of the League One heavyweights, with more than 600 tickets sold to Black Cats fans.
But, having received a letter on Friday afternoon informing them that the SAG had 'identified a number of issues that made them uneasy about the match going ahead with a crowd', Harrogate contacted Sunderland at 5pm to inform them that the game would have to take place inside an empty stadium.
It has subsequently been revealed by the SAG that 'a range of safety measures that had to be addressed to enable the match to go ahead' had not been put in place by the club, however Town manager Simon Weaver has confirmed that that work is already underway to rectify these issues.
And he went on to state that August 7's League Two opener at home to Rochdale will go ahead as planned, in front of a crowd.
"What happened on Saturday was a huge blow for both clubs, but more importantly for the supporters. It caused a huge sense of disappointment and, of course, we are really sorry," he told the Harrogate Advertiser.
"We are trying to get to the bottom of what needs doing and are working really hard behind the scenes to make it happen in time for Sunday's pre-season game with Doncaster.
“We are talking about little tweaks here and there. There’s nothing major or anything that we’ve fallen massively short on. There’s nothing that cannot be sorted in the next two weeks, we just didn’t have enough time from receiving the guidance on Friday to get sorted in time for Sunderland.
“We are not worried about the Rochdale fixture. That game will 100 per cent go ahead with supporters in attendance.”
Moving Saturday’s fixture behind closed doors attracted plenty of criticism from both Harrogate and Sunderland fans, and although confident that Town will be able to complete the required works at the EnviroVent Stadium in good time, Weaver conceded that some damage has already been done.
He did however stress that “important” lessons have been learned.
“We could have saved ourselves the embarrassment, but we will learn from this,” he added.
“Important lessons will be learned. We were so excited by the prospect of getting fans back in their numbers. The fans and the players have been deprived for so long.
“We wanted the supporters in, but in future we will make sure that the communication with our own safety officer and the SAG is better.
“We only had the best of intentions and, as I’ve said, we are, as a club, extremely sorry about the situation. I hope that we can make it up to the supporters by putting on some good performances for them to enjoy in the weeks to come.”